Schopenhauer on national pride

“The cheapest form of pride however is national pride. For it betrays in the one thus afflicted the lack of individual qualities of which he could be proud, while he would not otherwise reach for what he shares with so many millions. He who possesses significant personal merits will rather recognise the defects of his own nation, as he has them constantly before his eyes, most clearly. But that poor beggar who has nothing in the world of which he can be proud, latches onto the last means of being proud, the nation to which he belongs to. Thus he recovers and is now in gratitude ready to defend with hands and feet all errors and follies which are its own.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

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  • Konservo  On August 29, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I have to wonder if his own philosophy, and not Hegel’s, had been more readily accepted when Schopenhauer was still a young man, if his opinion of German would not have changed. Although Schopenhauer is regularly called an “Anglo-phile,” it’s clear from take on Goethe’s and Newton’s theory of color (he favors Goethe) and his admiration for Kant that Schopenhauer did, in fact, have a sense of pride, if not for his nation then, for the great intellectuals that his nation produced.

    I also wonder if Schopenhauer’s apparent hostility toward the Germany of his day had not been so marked, if Nietzsche would have criticized Germany less as well.

  • aristotlethegeek  On August 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I cannot comment on his works (haven’t read any), but I would have said that his crude nature and lack of respect for everything and anything, most of all contemporary philosophers and the “professors of philosophy”, probably went on to include Germany and the Germans. But Margrieta Beer’s Schopenhauer talks about his dislike for nationalism – he feared “the possibility of losing his private means.” That surely is a great incentive to spew venom on nationalism. And then he was an individualist who believed in a limited government – nationalism is its antithesis.

    About his pride in the intellectuals Germany produced, the only German he respected, in a sense – if we consider his major work – was Kant. Hegel, we know he fell on like a ton of bricks. A case of sour grapes? Maybe.

    Any one who believes in individualism – even the kind espoused by Nietzsche – has little use for nationalism. While Schopenhauer did influence Nietzsche, would he have been less critical of German culture and “philistinism” if Schopenhauer had not already attacked Germany? It is a theoretical question, but I would say that he would have gone ahead regardless.

  • Edward James  On December 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Dangerous when throwing around “isms” like you do. I would like to emphasize that Schopenhauer was by no means opposed to the concept of a nation, which he did NOT see as being adverse to the individual. His thought has often been misrepresented by people who have read about him but never read his own writings. Despite common opinion to the contrary, he was was by no means purely a proponent of individualism, was not unhistorical, i.e. against a national history, as one often hears. He saw history as a moral faculty for a people or a nation analogous to the memory of an individual. In his essay on history in “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellug”, Vol. 2, Schop. compares the consciousness of the nation to that of an individual. For him “history” is the self-consciousness of a nation (“ein Volk” or “ein Geschlecht”). In a passage that can give us all food for thought today he writes: a nation that doesn’t know its history is condemned to living only in the present wandering around aimlessly like an animal in a cage. Such a nation that does not know its history understands neither itself nor the present. I personally do not see an opposition between “the individual” and “the nation” which are, properly understood, both unique entities that complement each other.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On December 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Using an ‘ism’ is an easy task, especially when the philosopher himself has done it.

    I never said that Schopenhauer was opposed to the ‘nation’, but the quote clearly proves that he had no patience when it came to “national pride”. And isn’t national pride – the one that gives rise to virulent nationalism – different from the knowledge of a nation’s history? It is, in my opinion. The first is not always based on facts; the second should, but again, is not always.

    An individual and a nation can ‘complement’ each other only when the nation knows that it is a collection of individuals – the individual is supreme. Otherwise we are looking at a grand mess – as most countries have experienced, and are continuing to experience, to this day.

  • Tommy from Chicago  On November 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I originally came here to look up Arthur Schopenhauer because alot of Liberal-Marxist OWS sites recently are using this quote to make fun of and attack the military for being mostly conservative. (They use the quote, then say there are military cemetaries filled with those who have pride…)

    I think they are taking it out of context because I agree with the basic point he is making. Blind pride is not a good thing, which reminds me “fanboys” who still root for the team/product/ideology no matter what the case. As a member of the armed forces, we take an oath to the Constitution (based on the philosophy of Individualism) which is our source of pride, not blind pride or nationalism.

    • Celltrex  On September 13, 2012 at 4:16 am

      Put down that flag and do something on your own. You are full of blind pride. What this mane is talking about is just what you read: pride in your nation. Get over it. It’s not abut political affinity. It’s a bout the humandcondition. You are a dumb, irrational, instinctual animal.

      • Tommy from Chicago  On April 22, 2013 at 5:55 am

        I have done something on my own both here in America and overseas, with and without the military. Your accusations are baseless and your argument is simply a childish Ad Homenim attack full of sound and fury…signafying nothing. As I said above, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and we understand the philosophy behind it.
        Now go…shoo! The adults are talking here.

        • Marcos Antonio  On March 16, 2017 at 7:30 am

          I think it’s cool you fight for what’s right, but you can’t follow blindly your nation like the German Soldiers did in the WWII. If you understand that Tommy that’s cool… Don’t fight for your nation, but for humanity.

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